'Ground zero' operation underway against militant hideouts near Pakistan’s border with Iran 

Pakistani soldiers patrolling near Pakistan-Iran border in Taftan, Pakistan on February 25, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 06 June 2020

'Ground zero' operation underway against militant hideouts near Pakistan’s border with Iran 

  • Pakistani intelligence officials, locals confirm latest operation in Balochistan to combat violence on shared border
  • Officials say raids being carried out in several areas, particularly against militants hiding in Kecch, Panjgur and Gwadar areas

DUBAI/ KARACHI: A major “intelligence-based operation” is ongoing against militants hiding near Pakistan’s border with Iran in the southwestern Balochistan province, Pakistani intelligence officials, local witnesses, have said, in the latest attempt to combat violence on the 900-kilometer shared frontier. 
Over the years, Iran and Pakistan have accused each other of not doing enough to stamp out militants allegedly sheltering across the border. In the most recent attack that has caused friction between the two nations, six Pakistani security personnel were killed in a bomb attack on a paramilitary Frontier Corps vehicle, the army’s media wing said in a statement on May 19. Six Pakistani soldiers were also killed in a roadside bomb attack in Balochistan on May 8.
Several militant groups are active in Balochistan, Pakistan’s biggest but poorest province. Much of the violence in the past has been blamed on, or claimed by, ethnic Baluch separatists.
Baloch Khan, a spokesperson for the Baloch Raaji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS), an umbrella group of Baloch insurgent groups, confirmed in a media statement last month that a “Pakistan army operation” was ongoing and soldiers were surrounding and raiding remote villages. However, he said no commanders or fighters of BRAS had been killed in the attacks. 
An intelligence official, who declined to be named, told Arab News the operation code is “Ground Zero Clearance Operation.” Two additional intelligence officials confirmed an operation was ongoing. Two local witnesses in the Mand area of Kech district also confirmed “actions” in their area. 
In a Twitter post on May 23, a pro-government politician from Balochistan, Nawabzada Jamal Khan Raisani, said the Pakistan army had launched “a sweeping operation” against the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) along the Pak-Iran border. Both groups are part of the BRAS umbrella, along with the Baloch Republican Army and the Baloch Republican Guards.
“The action began two nights ago [May 21], with a string of terrorists neutralized and hideouts busted,” Raisani said. 
Speaking to Arab News, Raisani said a senior BLF commander, Abdul Hameed alias Ghazin Baloch, was among two dozen militants killed in the ongoing operation, which he said was led by soldiers of the Pakistan army and Fortier Corp. as well as intelligence officers. 
The media wing of the Pakistani military and the foreign office declined comment for this article. Ijaz Ahmed Shah, the federal interior minister, said his team would respond to emailed questions but no reply had been received until the time of press. 
Balochistan Home Minister Mir Zia Ullah Langove did not respond to specific questions about the operation but said: “We have taken effective actions.” 
Speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media on the issue, one intelligence officer based in Turbat said a “bank of targets” had been gathered by officials over many weeks, and raids were now being carried out in several areas, particularly against militants hiding in the border areas of Kecch, Panjgur and Gwadar.
Pakistan began fencing its 900-km border with Iran in May last year, which had become a source of “frustration” for militants, the intelligence official said, leading them to plan more attacks. 
Last month, Pakistan’s military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa spoke to his Iranian counterpart Major General Mohammed Bagheri via telephone, and discussed border fencing, the improvement of border terminals and enhancing security, among other issues, according to a statement from the army’s media wing. The two officers also discussed recent attacks on Pakistani troops near the border. 
On April 20 last year, just days after militants killed 14 bus passengers in an attack along the Iran border, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the insurgents behind the attack were based inside Iran, calling on Tehran to take action. The attack had been claimed for BRAS.
“The training camps and logistical camps of this new alliance [BRAS]... are inside the Iranian border region,” Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad. Iran denied any state involvement.
Just days after Qureshi’s comments, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said during a televised news conference with the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, in Tehran for a visit, that the two nations would form a joint quick reaction force to combat militant activity on their shared border.
“We agreed to increase the security cooperation of the two countries, our border forces, our intelligence forces,” Rouhani said. “And also to form a joint quick reaction force on the border of the two countries for fighting terrorism.”


Young Pakistani student from Swat invents ‘smart shoes’ to help visually impaired people 

Updated 8 sec ago

Young Pakistani student from Swat invents ‘smart shoes’ to help visually impaired people 

  • Wasiullah, 17, says he entered world of innovation by repairing and fixing damaged battery-operated toys 
  • KP Directorate General of Science says will encourage and support the inventor to develop the project

PESHAWAR: A young Pakistani student from the scenic Swat valley in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has invented “smart shoes” for visually impaired people, designed to warn them about an obstacle within a radius of 120 centimeters with a sound or vibration. 

Seventeen-year-old Wasiullah, who goes by a single name, is a Grade-10 student who said that he entered the world of innovation by repairing and fixing damaged toys, powered by electric batteries. 

One of his teachers testified to his technical bent, saying the young student also made several gadgets in his school lab. 

Wasiullah (right), a Grade-10 student, briefs his fellow about his newly invented "smart shoes" for visually impaired persons in his hometown of Swat in Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on October 13, 2021. (AN Photo by Wasiullah)

“Visually impaired people will no longer need walking sticks or guides after smart shoes acquire popularity,” Wasiullah said. “The shoes are fixed with ultrasonic sensor and arduino board to keep blind people safe while they are walking. Such individuals can get a prior notification of any looming hindrance.” 

Wasiullah said a pair of smart shoes could cost about Rs4,500, adding it was not possible for him to formally market them since he was even finding it difficult to fund his college education. 

Sajid Shah, the head of KP Directorate General of Science and Information Technology, told Arab news that his department really appreciated the student for the invention, and it would encourage and support him to further develop the project. 

He said his department has a separate wing of scientists with expertise in different fields, who evaluate inventions by individuals. 

“After evaluation by our scientists, our department will promote the project of smart shoes invented by Wasiullah for commercial purposes,” Shah said. 

 

The 17-year-old Swat resident told Arab News his father had recently passed away and his two elder brothers were daily-wagers. 

Muhammad Farooq, his physics teacher, described Wasiullah as his most brilliant student, who often asked tricky questions during the lectures. 

“Wasiullah used to work with me in the lab on different assignments,” he said. “I still believe he has the potential to emerge as a leading scientist if he gets proper coaching and opportunity.” 

Farooq said his student had initially been planning to improve the white cane or invent wheelchair for visually impaired people. Instead, he decided to focus on the shoes due to financial constraints. 

Mian Sayed, a social activist from Swat region, said he personally observed the smart shoes, which could be polished further with a little modification to formally introduce in the market. 

“I knew Wasiullah who is one of the brilliant students and can bring laurels for the country. The shoes invented by him can even be exported if the project is owned by the government,” Sayed added. 

Wasiullah maintained he wanted to get higher education in the field of science and technology, while hoping that the government would sponsor and promote his “smart shoe project.” 

“Smart shoes for visually impaired people are available in foreign countries,” Farooq informed. “But their prices are beyond the reach for many in this country. The government should own the project because the shoes Wasiullah has made are comparatively cheaper and more affordable.” 


House fire in eastern Pakistan kills 7 family members 

Updated 35 min 57 sec ago

House fire in eastern Pakistan kills 7 family members 

  • Fire ignited at a house in the Ali Pur area of Muzaffar Garh district in Punjab province 
  • Police said the cause of the fire was being investigated 

MULTAN: Police were investigating after a fire overnight in eastern Pakistan killed seven family members, a rescue official said Sunday. 
The fire ignited at a house in the Ali Pur area of Muzaffar Garh district in Punjab province, said rescue service chief Dr. Hussain Mian. 
He said firefighters retrieved the charred bodies of a 65-year-old man, two women ages 35 and 19, three boys ages 3, 10 and 12 and a 2-month-old infant.

Mian said the bodies have been sent for autopsy and forensic examination.

Police said the cause of the fire was being investigated and investigators want to know why none of the family members woke up when the fire erupted. 

 


Pakistan to appoint head of ISI spy agency within week — minister 

Updated 17 October 2021

Pakistan to appoint head of ISI spy agency within week — minister 

  • Sheikh Rashid Ahmed says those ‘wishing ill of institutions’ won’t succeed in their designs 
  • Army named Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmad Anjum as new ISI chief on Oct 6, but government has yet to notify it 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Saturday said matters relating to the appointment of the new head of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the country’s premier intelligence agency, would be resolved within a week. 

Ahmed’s statement came amid widespread report of a rift between the government and army over the appointment of a general in the key position. 

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa held consultations over the appointment of Lt. Gen. Nadeem Ahmad Anjum as the ISI director-general. The army has notified Gen Anjum, replaced Gen Faiz Hameed. 

“From this Friday, which passed yesterday, till the next, all issues will be resolved,” Ahmed said at a ceremony at Islamabad’s F-9 Park. 

“And the ones, who wish ill of our institutions and can’t stand Imran Khan’s democracy, keep talking but they will not succeed.” 

Pakistan’s army, widely believed to be the most influential institution, has ruled the country for about half of its 74-year history since its independence from Britain, and enjoys extensive powers even under civilian administrations. 

By turn, the head of the ISI occupies one of the most important posts in the country and is customarily appointed by the prime minister on the advice of the army chief. 

Though Gen Anjum’s appointment was announced by the army’s media wing on October 6, the PM House has yet to issue an official notification about the posting, fueling widespread speculation about a discord between the civilian administration and the military. 


Karachi sees ‘alarming’ increase in acid attacks as incidents on the decline nationwide

Updated 17 October 2021

Karachi sees ‘alarming’ increase in acid attacks as incidents on the decline nationwide

  • At least six people, including a TikTok star and a transwoman, suffered acid attacks within a span of 45 days in Karachi
  • Activists say the state must act to regulate the sale and purchase of acids in the country to prevent the possibility of such attacks 

KARACHI: Despite an overall decline in acid attacks in Pakistan, such incidents have surged in Karachi in recent weeks, making officials and experts describe the emerging trend as “alarming.” 

According to media reports, six acid attacks were reported in different parts of the city in the last 45 days in which four women, one transwoman and a man were targeted by their spouses, acquaintances or partners. 

The most recent acid attack victim was a transwoman, Saima, who was shifted to a local hospital after the incident, though she died during her treatment earlier this month. 

According to police, Saima lived with another transgender person, Qaiser, who threw acid on her after an argument broke out between them. 

“This surge in acid attacks in Karachi is alarming,” said Nuzhat Shireen of the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women (SCSW) on Wednesday. 

She maintained the incidents of violence against women were usually underreported in the country, though she acknowledged that there was an overall decline in acid attack cases. 

“The SCSW, which ensures legal action in cases of violence against women, will also look into this matter,” she added. 

The acid attack incidents since August involved a burqa-clad woman who targeted the first wife of her husband. 

Two men also poured acid on their wives while a woman gave burn wounds to her former husband who refused to remarry her. 

In August, a 19-year-old TikTok star, Rimsha, died after her former husband doused her with acid. In her statement to the police, she mentioned how she was chased by him before he grabbed her and emptied a bottle of acid on her. 

According to Wasim Shahmalak, a senior official of the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) in Sindh, more than 150 acid attack victims had been treated in Karachi since 2014, adding the number still showed a decline in these instances. 

An ASF report in 2017 mentioned a significant drop in such cases following the enactment of a legislation criminalizing acid and burn violence in December 2011. The organization maintained that 1,108 acid attacks had taken place in Pakistan between 2007 and 2016 which targeted 1,375 people. 

In 2014, however, 153 acid attacks targeting 210 victims were recorded while this number further declined to 69 in 2015 and slightly increased to 73 in 2016. 

Shireen said certain actions by the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women, including a joint WhatsApp group where senior police officials shared progress in the cases of violence against women, had resolved the issue of legal inaction. 

“We have drafted an amendment bill which will ensure better implementation of the existing laws since both federal and Sindh Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Acts have lacunas,” she said, adding that these loopholes made out-of-court settlements possible in such cases. 

“In one instance, I traveled from Karachi to Nawabshah, but the victim did not show up in the court,” she informed. “Later, the police said that the victim had resolved the matter without involving the judicial authorities. In one case, a victim married her attacker.” 

Musarrat Misbah, a Pakistani beautician and philanthropist who founded Depilex Smileagain Foundation for the treatment of acid attack survivors, speculated that COVID-19 could be one reason behind the sudden surge in such attacks since there was evidence that the pandemic had increased domestic violence in different parts of the world. 

“In our society, the pressure is mostly directed toward the weak,” she said. “Women frequently become victims of domestic violence which, in its worst form, can take the shape of an acid attack.” 

She noted that while there were several laws to deal with the menace, these were not fully implemented. 

“If we have to address this problem, we will have to punish the preparator of these crimes and the state will have to take responsibility for that,” she added. “The state must also regulate the sale and purchase of acids.” 

Speaking to Arab News, Muhammad Akram, father of the deceased TikTok star Rimsha said that her daughter’s alleged murderer had been thrown behind bars, though he added that he did not know the exact status of her case. 

“I lost my daughter since she got married to a wrong man,” he said. “While the accused’s family has not asked me for an out-of-court settlement, they have been threatening me indirectly to back off. I am a poor man who is totally shattered by his daughter’s death. It is hard for me to pursue this case, but I cannot give up either.”


Ten-match win streak in UAE gives Pakistan edge over India — Babar

Updated 16 October 2021

Ten-match win streak in UAE gives Pakistan edge over India — Babar

  • The arch-rivals will meet in Dubai on October 24
  • Pakistan have never won a World Cup match against India

DUBAI: Pakistan have won their last 10 Twenty20 internationals in the United Arab Emirates and captain Babar Azam claims that will give his men the edge over India in their World Cup opener.
The arch-rivals will meet in Dubai on October 24 in what will be the biggest clash of the tournament that starts Sunday in Oman and the UAE.
Pakistan have never won a World Cup match against India, but that does not bother Babar who believes familiarity with the UAE pitches will help them break the jinx.
“Definitely we have played a lot of cricket in the UAE,” Babar said in a captain’s press conference when asked about his team’s dismal 0-5 record against India in T20 World Cup clashes.
“These conditions suit us and we know how to play here. We need to keep things simple in all the departments.”
The UAE was Pakistan’s home base after the deadly terror attacks on the visiting Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009 forced cricket out of the Asian nation.
Pakistan, who are third in the T20 rankings behind England and India, also have Afghanistan and New Zealand in their group at the World Cup.
Babar acknowledged that captaining the team in the 16-nation tournament was indeed an honor and said his recent form will give him confidence.
“Good performances give you confidence,” Babar, who has hit two T20 centuries this year, said.
“I am in form, hence it will benefit me.”
Babar, who has over 2,000 T20 runs, tipped Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson to stand out as the tournament’s best batter and Pakistan speedster Hasan Ali as the premier bowler.
Meanwhile, India captain Virat Kohli played down the famous rivalry, describing the match with Pakistan as “just another game“
“I have always approached this game as just another game of cricket. I know there is a lot of hype created around this game more so with ticket sales and the demands for tickets,” said Kohli.
“Right now the value of those tickets is ridiculously high. So that’s all I know, friends asking me for tickets left, right and center, I refused.
“Yes, the environment, you can say, is different. From the fans’ point of view it is definitely louder. From the players’ point of view, we stay as professional as we can.”